Hamas Adds Conditions to Palestinian Deal
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Just last week, two rival Palestinian factions agreed to form a new unity government. Now that agreement appears in jeopardy. One faction is Fatah, led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The other is the Islamist group Hamas. Now Hamas has presented a list of new conditions for forming the government, conditions that could scuttle the deal.
NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN: Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas from Fatah are to meet today in Gaza to try to resolve disputes that have touched off a critical challenge to the unity government. Officials from both Fatah and Hamas say the Hamas conditions have put the unity government on hold at least for now.
Abbas was scheduled to give a speech today in which he was to ask Haniyeh to head the new government. That speech has been canceled. Hamas is demanding that the new unity government recognize every step taken by the current Hamas government, including the establishment of a Hamas security force and various appointments.
There are also disputes over the crucial post of interior minister, who is in charge of the security forces, and the appointment of the deputy prime minister, who is to be from Fatah but must be approved by Hamas. Fatah officials say they want Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan for that post, a man Hamas rejects.
Palestinian analysts say it's unlikely that these disputes will completely scuttle the unity government, which has massive public support. The unity government is meant to put an end to the armed factional clashes in Gaza that have left hundreds of Palestinians dead over the past few months.
Egyptian and Saudi officials, who helped broker the Mecca agreement, are also likely to get involved. But while the wrangling continues there are fears that the violence could resume.
Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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